LeanCor CEO: Collaborative ‘ecosystem’ perspective critical to business success today

When Robert Martichenko isn’t running his company, LeanCor Supply Chain Group, he’s probably thinking about lean. And when he’s thinking about lean, he’s probably writing about it, too.

While his passion for storytelling might be a source of productivity and relaxation, Martichenko also says it’s a key leadership capability that’s too often overlook or underdeveloped.

“As leaders, we have to work harder to tell stories,” he told a crowd of nearly 200 at the Center for Operational Excellence’s 25th anniversary celebration. “Anybody can put 10 bullet points on a slide and build 50 slides. What’s the story? Why are we doing this? What’s important? We have to become closer to the narrative.”

‘We are a business, we are a system’

Martichenko kicked off COE’s fall seminar and quarter-century celebration with a compelling narrative of his own: Where he sees the future of lean thinking and lean management in a business world changing by the minute – and leaving some destruction in its wake.

“Fundamentally, we’re going to have to do something differently,” Martichenko said. “At this point, what’s happening on the outside is happening faster than what’s happening on the inside.”

Martichenko’s insights for how companies can leverage lean concepts to survive and thrive in a disruption-rich world are rooted in his personal journey as a business leader. He began his career in the transportation and warehouse industries, where he identified a need to integrate lean principles and techniques across the entire value stream. He founded LeanCor 12 years ago to meet that need and has grown the business into a leader in advancing the world’s supply chains. Just two years ago, Martichenko was honored with the Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals’ Distinguished Service Award, the industry’s highest honor.

A supply chain-based “ecosystem” perspective is what Martichenko sees as a foundation for survival and growth today.

“The next frontier … is not about technology, or about apps – this is about core processes and functions and saying, ‘We are a business, we are a system, and as a system we need to manage it together,’” he said. “Do you really want to fail instead of getting three executives together and saying, ‘Can you please start collaborating?’”

What’s preventing leaders from the four core business processes — strategy, product life-cycle management, sales and marketing, supply chain operations — from doing this? Martichenko says it’s often a bias around our area of the business that skews our perspective and limits our ability to make the best decisions for the broader ecosystem.

“If you’re willing to step outside your safety zone, it will be amazing what you see,” he said.

Creating a culture with greater visibility and better alignment, Martichenko said, ultimately will generate the kinds of feedback systems that can enable the agility and flexibility businesses need today.

“All the technology we need for the supply chain to go from the supplier to the end customer is there,” he said. “What we don’t have is an equal amount of momentum from what actually happened back to the people in the business.”

Robert Martichenko was a featured keynote at COE’s fall seminar along with Goodyear executive Billy Taylor, who stressed the importance of people-inclusion processes in transformational change.  

A 15-minute recap and full-length recording for each session are available in the Digital Content Archive on COE’s members-only website (authenticated member account required).

For the supply chain ‘ecosystem,’ a sea change: In conversation with Prof. Robert Handfield

It’s not just the “bad news” – natural disasters, political unrest, sluggish global economic growth – that should worry today’s supply chain professionals. The “good news” is a wake-up call of its own.

Technology is bringing businesses and customers closer than ever, with wearable devices and social media producing torrents of instant feedback. Cloud computing is making information more accessible. The result? We’re drowning in data.

Prof. Robert Handfield (pictured, right) has watched this wave of change approach the field of supply management and come to a simple conclusion: Surviving and growing in the field of global supply chain management today means more than acting differently than before. It means thinking differently.

Handfield, a professor of supply chain management at North Carolina State University who runs the school’s Supply Chain Resource Cooperative, is headlining the Center for Operational Excellence’s Oct. 20 Supply Chain Symposium (event full: center members, join the waitlist here). There, he’ll be presenting insights from his new book, The LIVING Supply Chain: The Evolving Imperative of Operating in Real Time. In the book, Handfield not only charts the challenges the field of global supply chain management is facing but outlines a new perspective he says is critical to survival, one drawn from an unlikely source.

In an interview with COE, Handfield discussed the change swirling in the supply chain world – and had tough words for what’s considered “business as usual” today.

COE: You’ve watched the field of supply chain management evolve for more than 25 years. How would you describe the change you’re seeing right now?

Robert Handfield: What we’re seeing right now is a combination of cloud computing, a mobilization of the Internet of Things, and the emergence of faster and faster telecommunications networks – not to mention the rise of social media. All of these are combining to create this massive computing power, producing massive amounts of information.

But what we haven’t been able to do is figure out how to utilize and exploit all the data thrown at us in a way that allows us to better manage the supply chain and manage global events. We’re seeing more weather-related issues, more government-related issues, and the level of uncertainty in managing the global supply chain is going up.

COE: What does all of this change mean for the kinds of skills that will be critical for successful supply chain managers?

RH: You have to have people who love to learn. In this environment, you have to be able to learn new technologies, new ways of looking at the world. We’re also going to need people who are very strong in terms of building relationships and negotiating contracts. Solid analytical skills are crucial, too – not just writing code, but looking at data and being able to derive meaning from it, translate it into a decision.

COE: Your vision of the “new rules” of supply chain management is rooted in a living ecosystem concept. How does this reorient the predominant perspective out there?

RH: We pulled this idea of an ecosystem from Sean B. Carroll’s biology book The Serengeti Rules. In the natural world, organisms need to coexist, they’re dependent, and if you mess with the health of one part of the ecosystem you get an oversupply or an undersupply and things break down. There are some really great rules here to apply to supply chains – but it’s going to mean a change in the way people work.

Today, most procurement people are out to crush their suppliers on price, and that’s it. Suppliers are trying to go around procurement, sell to stakeholders, make better margin. These kinds of behaviors have to change. We have to be thinking about not just what’s happening in our own enterprise but what’s happening with customers, with suppliers, with our suppliers’ suppliers. How do we maintain a healthy ecosystem where everyone succeeds, is profitable and is mutually aligned?

COE: You’re pretty serious about how important velocity is to survival in the supply chain today. What are some of the biggest roadblocks in the way for organizations wanting to pick up the pace?

RH: The old ways of working are standing in the way: “We can do that, we have procedures and policies we have to follow.” If you go back and look at why we have these, they’re just getting in the way. To gain velocity, we need to be connecting people looking at the same data together so they can quickly make decisions that will make things flow quickly through the system. When that happens, customers are happier, sales increase, and more working capital is available.

COE: You also place serious emphasis on integrity in the supply chain. To put it simply: What’s so great about being “good?”

RH: I believe it all comes out in the end. Organizations that do good in terms of building sustainable supply chains, improving communities where they’re buying, buying where they sell – they’re going to see the reward in the long term. It’s not just about being a good guy, a sympathetic character; it’s about business.

COE: Where do you see the role of operational excellence – specifically structured improvement systems like lean – in this forward-looking vision of the “living” supply chain?

RH: If you look at the idea of velocity, visibility is key: You can’t manage what you don’t see, and lean is really big on visibility. I see lean being really critical in bringing visibility to upstream and downstream supply chains and understanding what’s happening to the customer in the last mile. By making everyone aware of what’s happening in real time that gives them the opportunity to make decisions, to solve problems – and there are always going to be problems. You have to understand the customer situation in order to really optimize the supply chain, and that’s where lean really aligns.

Handfield’s presentation is the featured keynote in a half-day, morning event that includes networking time with Fisher College of Business graduate students, a follow-up presentation on supply chain data analysis from Aquiire CEO Mike Palackdharry, and a wrap-up discussion panel with leaders from Accenture, Cisco Systems and Kellogg Co.

Registration for this event is currently full but employees of COE member companies can join the waitlist.

September keynotes bring passion, leadership lessons to 25th anniversary celebration

(Keynote Billy Taylor delivering a keynote address at an event in Kansas last year. Photo courtesy Topeka Capital-Journal)

As the Center for Operational Excellence rings in its quarter-century milestone next month, the keynotes taking the stage are bringing nearly a half-century of transformational leadership experience.

The center’s fall seminar and official 25th anniversary celebration is coming up on Friday, Sept. 15, with limited seating still available for in-person attendance. Presenting and livestreaming will be two renowned process excellence leaders: Opening up the day at 10:30 a.m. is Robert Martichenko, CEO of LeanCor Supply Chain Group and an award-winning business leader and author. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. executive Billy Taylor takes the stage at 1 p.m. with his insights on “people-driven operational excellence,” which he’s presented to wide acclaim at conferences around the world.

Both keynotes bookend a networking lunch and official 25th anniversary celebration, featuring a tailgate-themed meal and special appearance by Brutus Buckeye, who will be posing for photos with attendees.

While both featured keynote speakers have traveled different paths along their more than 20 years in leadership, they both bring a passion for process excellence that radiates in their dynamic presentations.

LeanCor CEO Robert Martichenko

Martichenko began his career in the transportation and warehouse industries, where he identified a need to integrate lean principles and techniques across the entire value stream. He founded LeanCor in 2005 to meet that need and has grown the business into a leader in in advancing the world’s supply chains. A decade into his run at the helm of LeanCor, Martichenko was honored with the Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals’ Distinguished Service Award, the industry’s highest honor.

In his keynote, “Lessons in Lean, Lessons in Leadership,” Martichenko will share insights from his more than 20-year career of building cultures of continuous improvement, blending personal and professional experiences.

Billy Taylor, Goodyear

Taylor, a high-energy conference headliner, calls himself an “evangelist” for people-inclusion processes in organizational transformations. He spent years steering remarkable turnarounds at Goodyear plants before stepping up as director of commercial manufacturing, North America, in 2012. Taylor in 2015 took a senior role overseeing all North America manufacturing for the iconic tire brand.

In his keynote, “People-Driven Operational Excellence,” Taylor traces his journey from a fledgling plant manager to a top executive, outlining the philosophy at the heart of his drive as a leader: Operational excellence starts with empowering people and driving sustainable results through a bottom-up approach.

The pair of keynotes are part of COE’s anniversary celebration for a reason, said Executive Director Peg Pennington.

“The kind of leadership that can make the case for change, make it happen and then sustain it in the long term takes passion, compassion and a drive for continuous learning,” Pennington said. “Robert and Billy are that leader — they’re great storytellers, too — and I’m thrilled they’re joining us as we celebrate a major milestone for our center.”

COE formed in 1992 as the Center for Excellence in Manufacturing Management with four founding members, including current members Abbott Nutrition and Emerson Climate Technologies. One name change and 25 years later, COE is a network of 40 member companies pursuing process excellence by connecting with each other, with top business leaders and with faculty and student resources at Fisher.

All attendees at the Sept. 15 session will receive a commemorative COE anniversary item and a copy of Martichenko’s latest book, Discovering Hidden Profit. The event, open to COE members and invited guests, remains open for registration via live attendance or webcasting.

New Fisher profs bring analytics, sustainability expertise

The Center for Operational Excellence’s home academic department at Fisher College of Business is welcoming three new faculty members this fall with a range of expertise.

Here’s a look at who’s new at the Department of Management Sciences:

C. Blanco

Christian Blanco joins Fisher as an assistant professor of operations management after receiving his PhD from the UCLA Anderson School of Management. Blanco’s research is centered on helping firms develop sustainable and safe supply chains, addressing a gap he says he sees in available resources.

“Many firms are now responding to climate change-related risks, but the tools how to effectively manage these risks remain limited,” Blanco said.

Before joining the PhD program at UCLA, Blanco was part of the Renewable and Appropriate Energy Lab at UC Berkeley. He collaborated with a team of scientists in developing a model called “SWITCH” that identifies the least-cost combination of energy technologies that will provide low-carbon electricity in 11 western states.

E. McKie

 Erin McKie comes to Fisher as an assistant professor of management science from the PhD program at the University of South Carolina. McKie’s research is focused on sustainable operations, closed-loop supply chains and environmental regulations.

McKie’s work has been presented at various practitioner and industry conferences, including the Decision Sciences, Institute for Operations Research and the Management Sciences (INFORMS), and the Production and Operations Management Society (POMS) annual meetings.

Before returning to academia, McKie worked as a management consultant for Unum Group in the areas of operations, business systems, and strategy development.

H. Park

Hyunwoo Park has joined Fisher as an assistant professor in management sciences from the postdoctoral fellowship program at Georgia Tech’s Tennenbaum Institute. He holds a PhD in industrial engineering from Georgia Tech.

Park’s research interests include business and data analytics, supply network management, technology and innovation management, and digital platforms. His research has been published in a range of scholarly research publications — among them, Decision Sciences, Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association and Research Policy — while just this year he was a finalist for top awards from the Academy of Management and INFORMS.

The new professors are joining a department ranked among the best in the country for students and research. It’s No. 1-ranked worldwide by the Journal of Operations Management, while it makes the top 10 in a broader set of four major operations management journals ranked by the University of Texas-Dallas. A number of Management Sciences faculty members serve as associate directors for COE, helping connect members leverage their relevant research to solve real-world business challenges.

COE, Lean Enterprise Institute hosting workshops in Columbus Oct. 24-26

The Center for Operational Excellence is teaming up this October with a leading voice in lean thinking for a three-day round of workshops hosted in Columbus and offered at a discount to center members.

A dozen workshops scheduled from Oct. 24 to 26 at the Fawcett Center are now open for registration through the Lean Enterprise Institute, the Cambridge, Mass.-based education, publishing, research and conference organization. Workshops — a mix of one- and two-day sessions — range from deep dives into creating a lean culture and strategy deployment to best practices in gemba walks and Training Within Industry.

While all 12 workshops — a mix of one- and two-day sessions — are open to COE members and guests, two leaders from the center are hosting three of the sessions, one on each day. They are:

Oct. 24 – Lean Office: Making the Invisible Visible

rick guba
Rick Guba

How can we make the most of lean principles in a non-manufacturing, office environment? COE Associate Director Rick Guba and partner MoreSteam.com guide attendees through a virtual office workflow simulation that offers tools and insights on bringing visibility to largely “invisible” office processes. Key tools include value-stream mapping and metrics, error-proofing and standardized work. The session is recommended for process improvement leaders in service/office environments.

Oct. 25 – Root Cause Analysis

peg pennington
Peg Pennington

Learn to hunt down the underlying causes of systemic problems in your organization — not just symptoms — in this workshop, run by COE Executive Director Peg Pennington. Participants will learn the basics of root cause analysis and engage in hands-on activities, mapping out incidents based on personal experiences and high-profile real-life events. Critically, this session connects all learnings to the next step in the process: Developing countermeasures to ensure the problem doesn’t happen again.

Oct. 26 – From Data to Decision: Analyzing Value Stream Metrics

Moving from the value-stream map to the implementation of countermeasures requires data, but problem solvers often find themselves asking two key questions: When do I need data, and how much of it do I need? Attendees in this workshop, led by Pennington, assume the role of consultants in turning around a fictional pizza shop. Digging into data from “Pete’s Pizza,” participants analyze and interpret data on the production and delivery process on lead time, quality and cost. Ultimately, participants develop a set of recommendations for the client based on the analysis. Beyond sharpening problem-solving skills, this session leverages Excel-based activities such as pivot tables, graphs and descriptive statistics.

Each of the full-day sessions offered across the three-day span, including the three above, costs $800 and includes materials, breakfast, lunch and snacks. Two-day sessions cost $1,600. By selecting more than one full-day workshop or a two-day workshop, you are automatically entitled to a discount of $100 per day (maximum $300). If you are only attending a single one-day workshop, you may use discount code “OSUCOE” to unlock a $100 discount for that session.

If you and your team are interested in any of the sessions being offered in October, sign up soon as space is limited.

Summer session explores opportunities, risks of digital disruption

Nearly three-quarters of a century into its existence, Safelite Group has reason to act like a market leader – it is one.

The ubiquitous Columbus-based glass repair and replacement services company has a presence in all 50 states, with the capability to serve about 97 percent of U.S. drivers. Even 70 years after its founding, it’s in growth and acquisition mode.

That doesn’t mean, however, that Safelite isn’t keeping an eye out for disruptors waiting in the wings to turn the business on its ear.

“We’re looking over our shoulder,” said Bruce Millard, the company’s vice president of digital and customer innovation. “We’re asking, ‘Who has the velocity to potentially cause us problems?’”

Millard was one of four speakers at the second of two summer sessions focused on top business challenges and co-hosted by the Center for Operational Excellence along with three other centers housed at Fisher College of Business: The Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, the National Center for the Middle Market and The Risk Institute. After surveying the state of the “talent war” in July, the centers brought together industry executives and academic experts to offer a mix of exciting developments, sobering realities and paths forward in the rapidly shifting world of data analytics and digital disruption.

Cisco’s Jeremy Aston

In his kickoff keynote, Jeremy Aston of tech communication giant Cisco shared how much — and how little — has changed in how companies are viewing and preparing for the threat of digital disruption. Cisco’s Global Center for Digital Business Transformation in a 2015 survey of nearly 1,000 executives found 15 percent said digital disruption was already occurring in their respective industries. At the same time, a scant one in 250 of those surveyed said digital trends would have a transformative impact on their industry. Fast-forward to a new survey round this year and the shift is staggering: Half of those surveyed said disruption was ongoing, while nearly one in three foresaw a transformative effect.

“Today, we’re under pressure to transform and perform,” said Aston, senior director of the Go to Market and Offer Monetization Office at Cisco.

One statistic that changed little in the two-year span hints at a gap Cisco’s research has found between companies’ awareness and action. In 2015, a quarter of those surveyed said they were “actively responding” to digital disruption. That number rose to just 31 percent this year.

“That is a dangerous game to play,” Aston said.

Drive Capital’s Mark Kvamme

While the media/entertainment trades and Cisco’s own technology products and services niche are easily most vulnerable to disruption, few – if any – parts of the economy are immune to companies born in today’s digital-first world. Speaker Mark Kvamme, a former Ohio economic development official and partner at venture capital investment firm Drive Capital, shared a dynamic portrait of “born digital” companies in Drive’s investment portfolio. One of them, Columbus-based startup CrossChx, has launched an artificial intelligence-enabled tool for the health-care industry that synthesizes and automates high-volume, repetitive tasks — prior authorizations, appointment reminders — outside the scope of patient care. On the analytics front, Columbus-based FactGem — run by Megan Kvamme — is helping companies translate hordes of data from far-flung sources into actionable intelligence.

All these innovations, Kvamme said, point to an unavoidable truth: “The amount of change we’re going to see in the next five to 10 years is going to spin everybody’s heads.”

A world of opportunity, however, also means a world of risk. Professor Dennis Hirsch, who runs the Program on Data and Governance at Ohio State’s Moritz College of Law, closed out the session with a look at the tricky terrain of data analytics in technology, which already has destroyed some players (student data repository InBloom) and led to serious brand damage for others (Uber).

“Big data is a crystal ball,” Hirsch said, “and that means it can be used for good — and for bad.”

As companies move forward, Hirsch said, it’ll be incumbent upon them to establish processes and guiding values that protect customers and treat them fairly. Technology and its innovative uses for data, in fact, are outrunning the law itself.

“The law hasn’t caught up, and to some extent it never will,” Hirsch said. “We need to be asking, ‘What does it mean to be responsible beyond just compliance?’”

A key tool companies can use as they make decisions on these issues, and the broader world of digital transformation, is a decidedly non-technological notion at heart: process. From a legal and ethical perspective, that means establishing them on the front end to mitigate the risks of leveraging big data. From a business agility standpoint, Aston of Cisco said in opening the day, that means having a perspective that extends beyond the flashy innovation itself.

“We have to make thoughtful decisions,” Aston said, “and we can’t just be focused on technological outcomes. What’s the business outcome you need to drive?”

DHL Supply Chain riding digital wave with ‘smart glasses’ pilot

The digital wave continues to wash over the global economy, and it’s making a big splash at a Center for Operational Excellence member company.

dhl supply chainMember DHL Supply Chain this month announced that it has completed a pilot of a new augmented reality addition to its warehouse picking operations, equipping employees with “smart glasses.” By wearing these glasses, employees have instant access to visual displays that give picking instructions, along with details on where the item is located and where it should be placed on carts.

DHL Supply Chain in a press release said it’s seen boosts of productivity of up to 15 percent during pilot tests in the U.S. and in Europe, CIO and COO Markus Voss calling the digitalization “not just a vision or a program” but “a reality for us and our customers.”

DHL Supply Chain is one of many companies grappling and experimenting with the role of digital technology in legacy business models that, in some industries, haven’t seen radical disruption in generations. The challenge of digitization was the subject of an event just this week at The Ohio State Univeristy, where COE partnered with three other Fisher centers to address challenges and opportunities in this area.

In the opening keynote, Cisco executive Jeremy Aston shared research from the company’s Global Center for Digital Business Transformation showing that in just two years, companies’ perspectives on digitization have shifted drastically. In 2015, only 15 percent of surveyed companies told Cisco and its partners that digital disruption was already occurring in their industry. That number jumped to 49 percent this year. At the same time, roughly one in three of the executives surveyed told Cisco that digitization would have a transformative impact on their industry. Just two years ago, that perspective was shared by one in 250 surveyed executives.

DHL Supply Chain hinted that the “smart glasses” picking pilot is just the start, with plans to look at leveraging this technology in training and maintenance functions, among others.

COE ringing in 25th anniversary at September seminar

The Center for Operational Excellence is ringing in a momentous anniversary with a celebration in September featuring two standout keynotes.

COE’s fall kickoff seminar – a formal celebration of its 25th anniversary – is set for Friday, Sept. 15, where Robert Martichenko, CEO of LeanCor Supply Chain Group, and Billy Taylor, head of North America Manufacturing for Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co., are set to present. The sessions will bookend a tailgate-themed networking lunch … with some to-be-announced special guests.

LeanCor CEO Robert Martichenko

Both keynote speakers are renowned storytellers who bring a blend of personal and professional experiences to their respective stories of spending decades driving transformational change. Martichenko, set to keynote at 10:30 a.m. on Sept. 15, founded LeanCor with a mission to advance the world’s supply chains through training, consulting and third-party logistics. He’s emerged as a globally recognized thought leader in lean thinking and end-to-end supply chain management, as well as an award-winning non-fiction and fiction author.

Martichenko’s keynote, “Lessons in Lean: Lessons in Leadership,” focuses on what he’s learned while building organizational cultures focused on lean thinking and relentless business improvement.

Billy Taylor, Goodyear

Taylor of Goodyear, set to speak after lunch at 1 p.m., is a sought-after speaker and self-described “evangelist” for people-inclusion processes in operational excellence. In his keynote, “People-Driven Operational Excellence,” he charts his journey from fledgling plant manager to top leader at an iconic brand, offering insights on keys to building a high-performance, self-sustaining culture that’s the foundation for company-wide success.

Both sessions also will be offered to employees of COE member companies via live webcast, hosted and run by Mills James. Registration for webcast and in-person attendance – expected to reach capacity – will open the week of Aug. 7. Read more about both speakers on our website.

The event comes a full quarter-century after the founding of COE, which started in 1992 at the Center for Excellence in Manufacturing Management. Once narrowly focused on the application of lean in the manufacturing sector – and touting only four members – the center has grown along with the field of operational excellence to encompass the notion that process improvement principles are intrinsic to competitive edge for any industry.

Today, COE has a roster of nearly 40 member companies and engages with thousands of operations leaders across the country in the shared pursuit of building better processes in a culture of continuous learning.

Fisher centers’ collaborative series shines spotlight on ‘talent war’

Fisher College of Business’ research and business partnership centers might be individually focused on an eclectic range of themes, but finding common ground is easy when it comes to today’s toughest business challenges.

A group of four Fisher centers teamed up this summer to tackle two of the biggest challenges companies face today: growing and developing talent, and unlocking the power of data and digital disruption. Nearly 150 members and guests of the Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, Center for Operational Excellence, National Center for the Middle Market and The Risk Institute gathered in July for a deep dive into winning the “talent war,” with the disruption-focused follow-up set for Wednesday, August 16.

The big picture

Keynote speaker Marek Gootman of the Brookings Institution

The July “Winning the Talent War” session turned a spotlight on some of the key issues employers are facing as they match the supply in the talent pool with their hiring needs. A region’s talent pool, keynote and Brookings Institution Fellow Marek Gootman told the crowd, is nothing short of the key to its vitality.

“One of the things that connects everyone is where we’re pooling our talent from,” he said, “and talent is a key driver of economic competitiveness.”

Harnessing the potential of the labor pool today, however, means facing serious headwinds, Gootman said. For one, employers are demanding more workers with a college education despite the fact that many out-of-work members of the labor pool don’t have more than a high school education. A recent Brookings analysis of 130 population centers by county – among them Columbus’ Franklin County – found that 55 percent of those out of work have, at most, a high school degree, while only 20 percent have a bachelor’s degree. In Franklin County, that gap is even wider.

Brookings, a research partner with Fisher’s middle market center, is an advocate for workforce programs – apprenticeships and social enterprise initiatives, to name a few – that can help solve this supply-demand imbalance. And with technology’s reach extending these days to traditionally “non-digital” jobs, building workforce skill in this area is quickly taking on critical importance, Gootman said.

“This is something that everyone, large and small, is going to be grappling with,” he said.

While these challenges might prove formidable to larger companies, they can be downright crippling to the middle market sector, whose companies create 60 percent of the country’s new jobs but can lack the capacity or perspective to reach outside their four walls for workforce help. New survey data Brookings compiled with the Fisher middle-market center and released at the session showed the sector’s firms struggling to hire for needed skills, underinvesting in talent planning and facing intense competition from larger companies.

By moving from an adversarial relationship to one that’s focused on building a better region, middle-market firms and larger companies can join forces and better leverage support from the public sector, Gootman said.

“You’re reliant on these mid-sized firms for the economic vitality of the region,” he told the crowd. “Large firms can find their own value in working with the middle market.”

The ground war

talent war panel
The discussion panel, moderated by Fisher Prof. Marc Ankerman, featured HR leaders from Cardinal Health, Marathon Petroleum, Nationwide and Wendy’s.

Shifting demographics and an explosion of digital technology are very much on the minds of top talent leaders at some of Ohio’s biggest brands, who joined Fisher Prof. Marc Ankerman for a panel discussion following Gootman’s keynote. In a wide-ranging question-and-answer session, human resources leaders from Cardinal Health, Marathon Petroleum, Nationwide and Wendy’s Co. grappled with the challenges ahead.

At Nationwide, a top Columbus-area employer, process automation and the rise of driverless cars are two technology-centered trends likely to disrupt not only the company’s base of 10,000 call-center associates – but the insurance models at the heart of its business, said Kathy Smith, the insurer’s VP of talent development. The oldest business represented on the panel – 125-year-old Marathon Petroleum – is similarly bracing for technological upheaval, but also investing in readying its existing workforce for it.

“We’re really focusing on repurposing our workers’ skills and preparing them to learn automated technology,” said Tony Moore, head of talent acquisition.

Technology is even transforming the hiring processes at the heart of human resources, said Will Shepherd, Wendy’s director of enterprise learning and development.

“We’re having to meet applicants where they are from a technological standpoint, and recruiters are stepping that up,” he said.

No matter what technological leaps are around the corner, panelists told the crowd they still have an eye on the kinds of capabilities that won’t show up on a resume, Smith of Nationwide highlighting collaboration and “emotional intelligence” as critical.

“We need to continue to build skills in the hard stuff,” said Kelly Wilson, VP of talent management at Cardinal Health, “but the soft skills are so important.”

Coming up

The collaborative summer sessions continue with a look at data and digital disruption on Wednesday, Aug. 16, featuring speakers from Cisco, Safelite Group, Columbus-based data analytics startup FactGem and the Ohio State University Moritz College of Law’s Program on Data Governance.

Seats allotted for COE are currently full but employees of member companies may join the waitlist for the seats by e-mailing Jackie McClure at mcclure.92@osu.edu. More spaces are expected to be released to the center the week of July 31, and those will first be extended to waitlisted attendees.

Global sourcing projects offer chance to connect with Fisher students

One of the best ways to unlock the value of your company’s membership in the Center for Operational Excellence is engaging with students at Fisher College of Business.

Prof. John Gray

Once again, COE is offering member companies the opportunity to partner with groups of students on projects designed to give them real-world experience – and give you real value at no cost. COE Associate Director John Gray is seeking interested companies to host a group project for his second-year MBA and junior/senior undergraduate “Strategic Global Sourcing” classes for autumn semester 2017.

To indicate your company’s interest, just fill out a quick survey by Tuesday, Aug. 8. If your project is selected, you’ll work with Prof. Gray in August to create a more detailed project scope, which will be presented to students at the start of the academic year.

In these projects, students take what they’re learning in class – make-vs.-buy decisions, location decisions, supplier management, and more – and apply it to a real-world problem-solving need at your company. By opening up your doors, providing data and committing to roughly one call per week, your company receives up to three hours of work per week per MBA student along with a written deliverable, which can include analyses conducted through the project.

Check out the “Student Engagement” section of COE’s website for more specifics on recommended project scope and more.

Many COE member companies take advantage of project opportunities as a way to network with students and build relationships that ultimately could open doors to internships and/or job opportunities. Projects also offer the chance for concrete ROI – the “I” being solely your company’s time and commitment.

Looking to engage more with the global sourcing community? Join Prof. Gray’s LinkedIn group. If you have questions or would like more details, contact him at gray.402@osu.edu.